Gucci Mane’s murky and true-to-life raps have been the soundtrack to many of our lives. Whether Guwop was dishing out honest-to-god particularities on armed robberies, or vividly describing the decay and happenings of crack houses, he’s been a voice to our blissfully ignorant struggles. I vividly remember, as an impetuous 18-year-old street hustler, my excitement at hearing “Trap House,” “Two Thangs,” “Pyrex Pot,” “Hustle” and “Black Tee” for the first time. An ecstatic connection between my life and his lyrics was formed. Gucci’s unfiltered rhymes about life in Atlanta’s Zone 6 gave color to my struggles.
His no-frills mouthpiece is what the streets love about him. Especially the young men and women who are living the life that Gucci narrates. He doesn’t have to use mind-boggling creativity or jaw-dropping metaphors to wax poetically about his life. Yes, his lyrics are simple. But the most intelligent people can explain the most complex situations so that a third-grader can understand it. Since Gucci doesn’t have to rack his brain for ingenious wordplay, he’s forced to tell us exactly what he sees everyday: Guns sitting on couches inside crack houses where there’s no electricity; or making the transition from high school to becoming a full-time street hustler. While his all-to-familiar drug talk gifted Gucci with a burgeoning music career, it’s this same authenticity that doubled as a curse. His lyrics were so realistic that it was understood, by many, that he still had one foot in the concrete jungle.
After more than a decade, the rapper born Radric Delantic Davis is just now coming to the conclusion that the underworld – and drug use – are detrimental, not only to his music career, but to his mental health as well. In September 2017, the 37-year-old collaborated with author and former XXL music editor Neil Martinez-Belkin to release a book about Gucci’s hard knock life, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane (Simon & Schuster).
Gucci’s debut in the world of literature comes at a time when many rappers gleefully vaunt their drug abuse. Many of today’s rappers were raised on Gucci Mane’s discography. It can’t be proven, nor is it fair to say that he inspired rappers to boast about their drug use, but it’s well-known that Gucci himself has struggled with drug addiction. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, which tops out at 270 pages, moves swiftly through his relationship with drugs as well as the backsliding effects that lean – prescription promethazine/codeine syrup mixed with soda – has had on his life.
In his autobiography, the “So Icy” spitter strips away the chest-thumping ego that’s often heard on his records. He humanizes himself. He even discusses his vulnerability during his beef with fellow Atlanta MC Jeezy. But even more engaging than Gucci’s hesitancy to beef with Jeezy because of his ties to the notorious dope boy crew BMF, is Guwop’s detailed peer pressure that resulted in him experimenting with lean in the first place, while he was on a double date with friends.
“I didn’t know the first thing about grit or lean or whatever this s**t was, but I took Bunny up on his offer. Up to this point weed had been the heaviest drug I’d used,” writes Gucci. “But since I started running with the Zone 6 Clique, I’d been around them snorting powder, popping X pills, and lacing their weed with all types of junk. I figured this grit stuff couldn’t hurt.”
The Alabama-born goes on to share how his first encounter with lean affected his mental well-being.
“Out of nowhere, it seemed, I was totally out of my mind. It was like I couldn’t control my thoughts. I found myself doing irrational s**t that I would never do normally,” continues Gucci. “My behavior was super f**ked up. I wasn’t talking right. My pupils had gone dark. I’d become extremely paranoid and turned aggressive toward everyone I came across. Word got around that that something was up with Gucci.”
With hectic scheduling, street beefs in his old neighborhood, attempts on his life, trouble with the judicial system, and fighting a murder charge, Gucci’s drug use turned into a downward spiral of self-denial. Excessive attempts at hiding his pain are the reasons for the erratic behavior that made news and blog headlines, like the time in 2011 when he was admitted into a mental institution, or in 2010 when he threw wads of money at reporters while attending an event at MTV. Gucci even admitted to going on drug binges.
“After the awards I went to Miami Beach, where I holed up in my condo on Allison Island. I arrived with nothing more than $150,000.00 in cash and my security guard Big Dame, who stood by while I tore it up for a week straight. I didn’t leave the place once. Everything I needed – girls, drugs, drank – was brought to me. It was the type of bender rock stars were known for, not rappers.”
After two fake attempts at rehab and several stints in jail, it wasn’t until his 2010 case on federal gun charges that Gucci finally came to the conclusion he needed an intermission. Thanks to serious self-reflection, physical and mental exercise, lots of reading and the support of soon-to-be-wife Keyshia Ka’oir, Gucci overcame his addiction to drugs.
“I followed the changes I made to my body by working to strengthen my mind. I was devouring books. A lot of self-help, inspirational stuff,” he says. “Tony Robbins. Deepak Chopra. Malcolm Gladwell. James Allen. The biographies of Jimi Hendrix and Pimp C. Mike Tyson’s autobiography.”
If you’ve been following Guwop’s career since his “Black Tee” days, then The Autobiography of Gucci Mane doesn’t offer any overly-shocking details about his life. Everything in this book has been in his music. His autobiography shines because we get to see an emotionally intelligent Gucci. We see his fears and his doubts. Hip-hop culture and the crime infested neighborhoods that Gucci and his many fans were raised in, tells us that men are not supposed to expose their emotions, doubts and aversions. With Gucci’s new narrative, he makes it clear that when boys expose their fears and frailness, they become men.
Gucci’s self-scolding also aligns with JAY-Z’s deeply personal 4:44 album, as well as rappers like Logic, Styles P, Joe Budden, XXXtentacion and Lil Wayne. All of the former, except Hov, have rapped about or have had personal encounters with suicide.
Given Gucci’s influence on this generation and its rappers, as well as neighborhood pushers from inner-city dwellings around the country, his newly debuted book is poised to inspire rappers and men like myself to give more thought to mental health, drug use and the kind of lives we want to lead.